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#1 Tip - Don’t watch the your feet or the webbing, focus your eyes on something eye level near the end of the webbing and let your balance tell you where to put your feet. If you are going to watch the ground make sure it is at least 15 feet in front of you.
#2 Tip - Relax. Shake out your shoulders, arms and legs before you begin. It actually helps.
#3 Tip - Don't lock your knees. Keep them at least partially bent and keep your arms out. Keep your head up and lean your torso back a little while taking steps.
#4 Tip – To really improve plan on twenty minutes as a bare minimum time for a slack session.
#5 Tip - HAVE FUN. Don't concentrate too hard or get frustrated. Just keep trying and have fun.
At first, just trying to stand up on the line can be daunting enough. Sometimes it’s wise to have a bit of help during that very first little bit. Ideally, two spotters, one on each side, holding their hands or shoulders is best. Avoid using sticks to help prop you up, we've found this actually slows your learning curve.
Being barefoot helps, or at least wear tight fitting shoes that won’t let your feet slip side to side. If you do wear shoes, make sure they are tightly laced and won't wobble side to side. Thin soled shoes give you the most feedback and avoid aggressive tread that can catch and trip you. Climbing shoes work ok for some, so do various thin soled shoes (skate shoes are best). You may find shoes let you spin easier for turns and jump with less pain, but barefoot lets you grip better since your foot will contour around the line and provides better feedback.
You’ll notice if you slowly stand up the webbing will try to shake violently; so when mounting, place one foot on the line and put very little weight on it, put your other thigh against the line to stabilize the line, and hop with your other foot so that your other foot is at least a foot off the ground before your weight shifts back onto the foot on the line. For a more stable start, try and sink straight down on the line, trying not to jump in at an angle. It takes practice but you’ll get a much smoother mount.
Find a slacking partner for best results. It helps keep you dedicated, focused and you can use them to observe your stance and recommend adjustments.
Fashion be damned. Lots of people try to walk slacklines with long baggy pants and insist that the pants don't get in their way. Reality is that if you are walking on your pant cuffs you are losing a lot of traction and feel for the line. If you wear long pants make sure you’re not walking on your cuffs. A simple rubber band around your pant cuffs works wonders.
Foot position will make a difference in stability. The most commonly used positions are what we call the Forward Foot Position and the Sideways Foot Position. Some tricks rely on using the two together. When walking we normally recommend the Forward Foot Position which places the line in the soft area between the big toe and the 2nd toe with the line going under the heel. When walking with shoes or doing moves that need sideways momentum the Sideways Foot Position is useful. The Sideways Foot Position places the line diagonally in the arch with the line resting to the outside of the big toe.
For shorter or younger folk you may find you need to drop the line temporarily for them to get on. The quick and dirty suggestion is to have someone sit on the end of the line behind them when they start. This allows them to get stable with someone else's weight on the line which seems to assist them getting started. Once they make it to the middle it often helps to slowly remove the extra person from the line.
When doing tricks the lower and farther spread across the sides of the line the easier it will be to stay stable. Stay low and keep those arms out. Instead of just bending your knees try bending them outwards to stay low.
Remember that most of the movements are in the hip and leg; so don't be afraid to loosen up those hips and legs. Your center of gravity will be in your hips, so don’t stiffen up your torso – it needs to stay fluid as you move.
Keeping a rhythm can make a drastic difference in your ability to move smoothly. Listening to music, keeping a beat or making Tai Chi like movements make for amazingly smooth movements on the line.
Bouncing up and down a little removes much of the side to side sways in the line. Useful if you’re having trouble handling side to side motions as you can create vertical bounces which are easier to control to eliminate the side to side sways not to mention, bouncing is just plain fun.
Try to practice in different parts of the line, the ends are much more firm and tend to move faster but much less movement adjustment is needed while the center is slower to respond but can swing much further off center. When in the middle, you need to slow your motions and don't overreact. Smaller moves are more precise.
Try different tensioning of the slackline, different heights and different starting points. Most people think tighter is easier (to a point) and more slack is more challenging while others find the opposite true. In reality what it changes is the speed at which you need to react and the amount of correction. If you have move slow on the line, a loose line will be easier. If you are twitchy and overreacting a tighter line will be easier to get started on. That said, I strongly recommend that you try to master all types of tension, from super loose to really tight.
Certain tricks are easier on tight lines while others are easier on looser lines. Tricks that rely on the bounce of the line or need a firmness to get the proper stance will need a tighter line than those than use the natural sway of the line. For instance jumping is easier on tight lines while surfing sideways is easier on loose lines.
One good way of sharpening your ability to walk is to first learn to balance on one foot, then the other. If you can balance on either foot and move your other foot out to the side, walking is simplified greatly. Take it to the next level by balancing on one foot while moving the other far out to the side. Once you can do this with either foot you will have a significant advantage when you need to recapture your balance.
Don't get discouraged, realize that each session you will spend some time getting warmed up and getting the feel for the line, spend time having fun, spend a little serious time making progress and then reach a point where your not going to get any better that session due to muscle fatigue and natural learning plateaus.
Young kids have a natural advantage. Here is my feeble attempt to add to this using details from my biology courses. During new muscular and nervous workouts your brain essentially redevelops nerve paths that it wasn't using much before and gives them a kind of tune up by remapping what those ends do in your brain. Each time you start working a new group your brain relearns controlling that group a little better until it reaches full potential. It only works a little at a time and only up to a point. That is, in part, why people often have sudden bursts at gaining strength and control during a new sport then reach a plateau where improving is harder. Kids haven't "forgotten" these nerves yet and the brain is still developing it's necessary pathways.
Want to practice the basics without actually being on a slackline? Maybe you’re having a very difficult time learning the sport or maybe you want a safe way of teaching others the basic movements before putting them on a line. Or possibly your just rained or snowed in and incredibly bored. For whatever reason, if you just want to experience some of the postures and motions of the sport try this: walk a line of tape or webbing on the ground. The requirements, heels can not touch the ground and should stay at least 2 to 3 inches off the ground and steps should be taken that swing the whole body out to the side curving at the hip. It seems to help some beginners we've recommended it to and got their confidence up before stepping on the line.
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